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review 2017-07-21 16:57
Seven Stones to Stand or Fall
Seven Stones to Stand or Fall: A Collection of Outlander Short Stories - Diana Gabaldon

A few of these I've read already, so I'll be lazy and link to those reviews. ;)

 

The Custom of the Army - 2 stars


https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/524842810?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

 

The Space Between - no rating

 

I didn't bother getting this when it was originally released solo and I'm glad I didn't. I don't have much interest in Joan, and even less interest in the Comte St. Germain, nor did I ever once wonder what happened to the guy or what his backstory was. So this was one long bore and I skimmed a lot of it to get to the important plot points. It was nice to see Mother Hildegard, but her role here is pretty much just cameo and doesn't make up for the rest.

 

A Plague of Zombies - 4 stars


https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1900984342?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

 

A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows - 5 stars


(No review for this one though. Sounds like a good reason for a reread.)

 

And reread I did and loved it just as much as the first time. Roger's father, Jerry MacKenzie, is unexpectedly launched back in time when his plane crash lands, and he goes through hell and back to get back to his time and his family. We get a few scenes of what's going on with Marjorie and baby Roger, but most of this is focused on Jerry. It's beautifully and heartbreakingly written, because if you've read the Outlander books you already know what everyone believes to have happened.

 

Virgins - 3 stars

 

Jamie and Ian are mercenaries in France. There's a lot of anti-Semantism in this one, as Gabaldon doesn't shy away from the prejudices of the time, and even our protags are guilty of it. The Jewish characters themselves though do not appear - at least to me - to be caricatures or stereotypes. Some of the Scottisms seemed strange - Ian's constantly referring to Jamie as a "wean" - I didn't think their age difference was all that great, so it felt odd. There's also this whole subplot with one of the other mercenaries who makes Gregor Clegane look like a fluffy kitty.

 

A Fugitive Green - 4 stars

 

Minnie and Hal's first meeting! I was intrigued by the backstory we got about Minnie in The Scottish Prisoner, so getting to see a more detailed telling of it was great. Minnie's wonderful and resourceful, and we even get a brief (too brief, I thought) subplot of Minnie's mom and her quest to find her. That was rather melodramatic - the mom's backstory that is - and I kept feeling like there was something more there going on than we heard

because nuns getting pregnant is not exactly unheard of so why exactly did Minnie's mom go mad because of it?

(spoiler show)

 

The ending also felt a bit rushed, so I hope this isn't the last exploration we get into these characters' backstories.

 

Besieged - 4 stars

 

Man, John can't even leave an assignment without getting pulled into a war. :P This is an interesting follow up to A Plague of Zombies, as John's still temporary military governor of Jamaica and trying his darnedest to resign that post. Enter his stepfather with some harrowing news. Loved seeing Tom Byrd again, and it was neat to see how Rodrigo is dealing after being zombified. There's your ingrained racism of the time, what with the slavery and all. I've never liked John's pragmatic view of slavery, but it is what it is, I guess? At least here, that pragmatism is a help to them.

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text 2017-07-17 02:23
Reading progress update: I've read 77%.
A Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin

Man, it's getting hard out here for an imp.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-07-11 05:32
The Unsung Hero (Troubleshooters #1) (Audiobook)
The Unsung Hero - Suzanne Brockmann

This audiobook is brought to you by Patrick Lawlor and Siri. Ok, Melanie Ewbanks reads the female POVs (I googled it - she is not Siri), but true story: I was driving to a meeting at a building I hadn't been to before when I first started listening to this audiobook, so I had my GPS turned on. The first time Ms. Ewbanks took over the narration, I seriously thought that my GPS lady got bored and started to randomly narrate the book. (I googled the GPS lady too - not Ms. Ewbanks.) She improves a little as the story goes on - or I just got used to her - but if you want to know what sex scenes sound like when read to you by a Siri-esque voice, now's your chance! (I didn't, so I skipped over them. Even when Lawlor was reading them. Narrators reading sex scenes are just painful.) Patrick Lawlor did a much better job of getting into the material and bringing life and warmth to the story. Unfortunately - as happens too often with dual narrators - the narrators are clearly not in the studio together when they recorded their parts, so Lawlor still has to do female voices and Siri still has to do male voices and I have no idea why you would pay for two narrators and then split up the reading this way. Stop doing this to your listeners!

 

Sadly, even the best narrators couldn't have saved this book. This has three - count them - one, two, THREE - romances crammed into one long-ass boring romance novel with an attempt at an intriguing suspense subplot to thread it all together. It just doesn't work. Rating them from blandest to most promising, the romances are these:

 

3 - Charles, Cybelle, Joe - Love triangle. Bored now. Love triangle set during WW II? UGHHHH! At least it's not set in Pearl Harbor? Seriously, it's WW II and that's the best the author could think to do with these characters? STAHP. The only good thing about this part of the story is that Charles and Joe stay friends.

 

2 - Kelly and Tom - The old "girl kisses boy, boy freaks out and enlists in the Navy, boy and girl don't see each other for 16 years and in all that time they clearly barely even change since they're right back where they left off as soon as they're in the same room again" story. Yeah, nothing new here either. I did like Tom's struggles with his head injury and wondering if he's still capable of leading. I'm just not sure this story actually answers that question. I also liked Kelly's struggles with understanding her father, Charles, and getting closer to him as his health is failing.

 

1 - Mallory and David - The old "geek boy who's really a nice guy (but not a Nice Guy) stalks beautiful girl and gets her" story. Ok, stalking is a little strong. He just makes himself visible, and he's a lot more confident and self-assured than geek boys tend to be in these stories. Mallory's change of heart toward him is gradual, and while it occasionally threatens to veer into boring romance cliche territory, it mostly avoids it.

 

The terrorist stalker subplot is one I've read before also, so again, nothing new here. This was published pre-9/11, so maybe the regulations were a wee bit more relaxed then, but I doubt it. If a bomb threat gets called in, it has to be investigated. End of story. If a building needs to be evacuated in a hurry, pull the fire alarm. The ending was convoluted and eye roll worthy, and the negligence on display here by literally everyone except our protags defies logic. 

 

This series is not off to a good start, but I've seen other reviews mention the books get better after this one, so I'm going to at least give the next one a try.

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text 2017-07-03 07:07
Reading progress update: I've read 71%.
A Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin

BEST!

 

CHAPTER!

 

EVER!!!!!!!!

 

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review 2017-06-29 18:48
Hunter of Demons (SPECTR #1)
Hunter of Demons - Jordan L. Hawk

This is an odd one. I'm going to give it four stars, because I do think it deserves it, but I'm going to put a huge caveat on that, which I'll get to in a minute.

 

Ms. Hawk certainly has a grand imagination. All her worlds, whether I can get into them or not, are well-detailed, well-thought out and the world-building is pretty smooth, giving you want you need to know when you need to know it without burying you in extraneous details. That is the same here. She's put a different sort of twist on vampires here. Certainly, vampires actually being demonic spirits isn't new, but in this world, vampires are thought to not actually exist. Ghouls and werewolves, sure. But vampires? Hah! Except they do. It's the method of transfer from one host to another that differs, and I quite thought it to be more complex and have the potential for more conflict that in typical vamp lore. We certainly get to see those conflicts emerge here and start to be explored, and since the way the possession works, you can still sympathize with Gray while understanding why Caleb is justly upset by all this. Neither of them asked for or wanted this; they're just going to have to find some way to make do. End of series spoiler:

And since this whole first series and part of the second series is already released, I know that Caleb and Gray aren't able to be separated, so I assume they will have to and do eventually come to some mutual understanding/acceptance of their fates.

(spoiler show)

I really enjoyed all the stuff that gets explored here, though I did think Caleb's trust issues with SPECTR and with John went away or started to fade just a little too quickly. I would think Caleb would be more suspicious than he ends up being, and would therefore be looking for more ways to manipulate the situation and John - but that doesn't happen. Of course, he's forced to stick around since they're hoping John will figure out a way to get Gray out of Caleb's body, but that doesn't mean that someone like Caleb, raised with a deep distrust of the system, would thaw out as quickly as he does. 

 

Now for my caveat - obviously, this is M/M(/U) (Caleb considers Gray to be "male" but Gray really doesn't have a gender), and romance is a must. There's no real romance in this first book, which is fine because that would've been misplaced. There's plenty of lusting and lusty thoughts, of course, and John gets a little too handsy with someone he's supposed to be protecting/holding in custody. John gets a wee bit unprofessional, but doesn't cross the line into totally unprofessional until they finally have sex in the last chapter. I have a couple of issues with this that prevented me from being able to like the scene, aside from the extreme unprofessionalism:

1) While they just came from a horror show of a death match with the lycanthrope and their adrenaline would be high, causing them to act rashly, I just couldn't stop thinking that Caleb's breath and mouth must've tasted like blood. Gray had just drunk a lycanthrope dry, and Caleb didn't even stop for mouthwash. Plus, even with near-instant healing powers, Caleb would've had some blood from his own injuries sustained during the fight. Shower first?

 

2) Holy consent issues! Caleb wants John and vice versa, but Gray was obviously way uncomfortable with all this and had no idea what was going on. Even though Gray's an unwanted hitchhiker inside Caleb, and Caleb was desperate to get laid for a variety of legit reasons, that still means that Gray hasn't given his consent to this. At this point, we don't know much about how this possession works. We know that sometimes Caleb is aware of Gray and can carry on discussions with Gray whether aloud or in their head, and sometimes Gray seems to "go away." But we don't know if Gray is "there" all the time or has the ability to "check out" or just makes it appear like he's checked out. Gray's had access to the memories of all his prior hosts, including their sex lives, but those were always in sepia tone, if you will, and this is the first time he's experiencing it firsthand and in technicolor with stereo surround sound. That he's subdued and quiet afterward probably just means he's processing and trying to make sense of what just happened, versus being traumatized by it, but I hope this is resolved before Caleb and John boink again. For now, I'm labeling it dubcon. YMMV.

 

3) Actually, consent is a huge issue throughout the story, what with the forced possession. Caleb doesn't want to share his body with Gray; Gray didn't intend to inhabit a body that didn't stay dead, and in fact has no control over which bodies he does inhabit. So dubcon/noncon is just a fact of this premise. Caleb's miserable, Gray's confused and doesn't know what's going on. Neither of them are really happy about this, though Caleb's pain is clearly much more prevalent and pressing. Still, it's more or less a mutually distressing experience, until the climax. Gray overrides Caleb's consent when he decides to not just kill the lycanthrope but drink all its blood. Dude! Caleb's a vegetarian! :P And also, that's gross. Gray would've even gone after Caleb's SIL if Caleb hadn't begged him not to. So maybe you don't care about #2, because Caleb's free to do what he wants with his body without having to check in with Gray - and I would agree to that IF this series wasn't sold as an M/M(/M) romance. But it is, so my issue with #2 isn't so much that it happened in this instance - because like I said, Caleb's desires were totally valid - but concern about how this is going to be handled in future installments. If you want me to believe this is a mutual romance among all three, then at some point - preferably sooner than later - the various issues of consent need to be addressed.

(spoiler show)

 

The writing is strong enough, and the characters and premise are interesting enough, I'm willing to at least give the next book a try and see how this develops from here. 

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